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The New Wave of Environmental Loggers (Part 1)

The first part of an on air radio discussion with Judi Bari - Transcript of a KZYX FM radio program; also featured in the Anderson Valley Advertiser, September 23, 1992.

Judi Bari: I'm Judi Bari, host for this evening's Environment Show on KZYX in Philo. With me tonight are local loggers Ernie Pardini and his brother Tony Pardini. In addition, we have Rod Balson and local carpenter-Earth First!er-turned-logger, Mark Heimann. There's a whole bunch of us in the studio. I'll try to remind you who's talking as we go along to keep it from getting too confusing.

What I want to get into is how this corporate overcut is affecting loggers in general and what's going on in the community. It's not just one person.

Why don't we start with a little of who you are and how long you've been in this community and what you do.

 Tony Pardini: Thank you, Judi. I'm a licensed timber operator right now. I've been in the woods for around 19 years. I've lived in Boonville ail my life. I would like to express my feelings about the environmental movement and how we can work together as a team instead of against one another. I work in the woods every day. I've got a cat and a loader now. I just finished a small job in Mill Creek... I think I do a better job in the woods than on the radio. I like lo show my colors in the woods by doing a good job, an environmentally-sound job out there in the woods, in the trenches.

Judi Bari: And who do you work for? Do you work for the corporations? Do you work for L-P? Do you work for small jobs?...

Tony Pardini: I do not work for L-P. I've been in business for myself for two years. All my jobs in that time have been working for private timber owners. As far as I know they have all been pleased with my work. I hope that my work will bring good things in the future.

Judi Bari: Rod, how about you? Why don't you say who you are, how long you've been in this community?

Rod Balson: I've been here since 1974. I came from L.A. so that was quite a culture shock. I've been working in the woods probably since 1979. There's not much work anymore in the woods.

Tony Pardini: I think there is not much work because of the slow down in logging on corporation lands, mainly. I think most of the timber is cut off. I was talking the other day about the string of logging trucks that used to go through the town of Navarro where I live. Nowadays they are few and far between. The timber is not there, the jobs are not there. In my opinion it's not Earth First! or environmentalists that are stopping these jobs, eliminating these jobs it's the corporations that have overcut in the past eight years.

Judi Bari: Tony, you said some things earlier about what it was that made you change your mind. As I understand it, you used to be a real stomper. You used to be one of the people that I was afraid ofand we'll get into that more later -but what was it that actually turned you around, a specific incident?

Tony Pardini: The thing that soured me- and I'm going to use a name this time: LP--the thing that soured me against L-P was the fact that they cut the John Coates tree a few years ago. That tree was a tree that was given a label by Masonite Corporation in tribute to a man called John Coates. >From everything I've heard about John Coates, he was a man to be looked up to, a man who deserved a tree in his name. I was working on the Masonite road...

Judi Bari: Excuse me... John Coates was a logger?

Tony Pardini: Yes. He was a timber faller

Judi Bari: So this was like a memorial tree to him?

Tony Pardini: A well-deserved memorial. I was working in Bear Creek at the time. L-P had a gyppo logger working the strip between the creek and the Masonite Road. They got closer and closer to the John Coates tree. A couple of my friends asked me, "Are these guys going to cut the John Coates tree?" I said, "No. They wouldn't do it. Not even L-P would cut that tree." I came to work one morning soon after that and when I came around the turn, that tree was on the ground. A good friend of mine fell it and a good friend of mine bucked it. I asked them why? They pointed to a forester that was standing there. I swear to you, his exact words were, "Harry Merlo said 'Yes we can,' so we did." ... L-P: I hold no punches now.

Judi Bari: That's a pretty dramatic story especially for environmentalists who have watched trees go down that we were protecting. I don't think it would ever occur to environmentalists that the loggers might have had the same experience. Rut I guess that L-P... their greed is universal, they don't care. How about some other specific stories. Rod, you described some specific jobs that you worked in the past that made you think that the logging methods weren't what they were cracked up to be. Would you describe some of those logging jobs you've been on?

Rod Balson: I worked up in Klamath in the Klamath River Basin. It was like three hours from the highway. It was total devastation. They had to check for humidity every day because there was so much slash. I don't think people realized what was going on because you couldn't see it. It was far enough away that no one would put up too much of a stink about it. Cameron Road in my earlier days made me sick. I always tried to get the logs out of there without hurting the suckers and all that. One day I was informed that it didn't matter because once we were done logging they were going to come in and knock everything down anyway. I don't understand how the seedlings can grow in the hot sun. You can't even get them to grow in your backyard watering them every day. Redwoods are pretty hard to grow, you know.

Judi Bari: There's been a lot talk about L-P, but they're not the only one doing bad work. You mentioned Klamath River, that kind of shows that the same thing is happening all over. I've heard a lot about R&J (Willits) and the small trees they cut. Does anyone want to talk about them?

Ernie Pardini: R&J is not a timber company per se. R&J more or less represents a speculative investment company invested heavily in timberlands. They spent lots and lots of money improving the road systems to bring them up to what I call, "Subdivision specs." We all know that's what they have in mind. The major piece of land I'm referring to is the old Hollow Tree property (`vest of Anderson Valley, running out to the coast at Point Arena)The old Hollow Tree Mill holdings. It's a piece of about 66,000 acres, I believe. Hollow Tree pretty much devastated it throughout the 50s and the 60s, so there wasn't much there to begin with. The only timber they left to speak of was in the real steep, inaccessible areas. R&J has since gone in and cut most of that. In my opinion that was done to liquidate as many assets as they had to finance the loan or whatever arrangement they had, until they can develop it. They have already filed certificates of compliance which would allow the property to return to the original patent sizes, the original homesteads. So that's just the first step. The next step will be to apply to develop it.

Tony Pardini: Ernie, I worked on R&J property for four years. I worked with Rod here as a matter of fact. I really don't know who to put the blame on as far as R&J timber was concerned. It was overcut, it was way overcut. Some of the trees that were logged were way too small, way too young. But as you said, R&J is not a timber company. Who do you put the blame on?

Ernie Pardini: In all fairness, it's really hard to say. R&J is obviously represented by a forestry firm that handles their forestry... In my opinion the way it would probably go is the investors would hire a forestry firm to go in and assess the harvest potential, which I'm sure they did, and then report back. Then I would imagine if the investor was briefed as to what was out there and what the profit possibilities were that R&J, the company, would make the final decision as to what they should and shouldn't do.

Judi Bari: I blame greed. Whether it's corporate Breed like Louisiana-Pacific or a local who's trying to cash in on the situation. What ends up happening is there isn't any forest and they convert the land from forestry and their aren't any more jobs. It comes out to be the same thing.

You know for years and years environmentalists have been trying to pass laws to regulate logging and everything we can think of to make a law so that they can't ruin a forest the way they do. I have to say I think we've failed.

I think we have created such an amazing bureaucracy that a logger can't get a THP even if it's a decent THP. But we sure haven't saved the forest. All you have to do is look at it. Look at L-P and their-admitted "90% gone" and the rest of the County and see what it looks like. So what's really interesting to me that I see happening with you all and what you're doing: coming out and making the stand you are making, & there is hardly any timber left on corporate lands. The only timber left is in private lands. I think we have a unique opportunity right now to try to change things from: the bottom up. So I'd like to talk with you Tony and what you've done with your logging company about taking a stand and saying "We won't do this kind of logging anymore," and kind of writing your own rules from the bottom up. Let's just do the logging by the people who don't want to destroy the forest, the people who are not going to log like L-P. Why don't you tell us about your logging company and what you did with it.

Tony Pardini: The first thing I did was change the name from Tony Pardini Logging to Regulator Logging. If you guys watched "Young Guns" on TV, we are going to set our own kind of standards. We think that the private timber owner is going to agree with our standards and like our job. When I hire a cutter, he's going to do a good job of cutting. He's going to directional-fall. He's going to abide by the mark on the trees that is set up by forestry. This is the way it has got to be done to show the private timber owner that we can do a good job and it will take the fear away from them. And maybe help persuade them to go ahead and do what they've been wanting to do for years but were afraid to.

Ernie Pardini: One thing that I'm trying really hard to impress upon the land owners of Mendocino County is that corporation lands are, for the most part, gutted. Between now and the time when the corporations leave this area--which I don't foresee being all that far off -- they are going to need timber under private ownership to maintain any kind of profit. I know Harwood has already been sending out propaganda mail to property owners trying to coerce property owners into selling their timber holdings. My recommendation to timberland owners is... The big corporations are pumping a lot of lumber onto the market at a very low price creating the impression that there is a large supply. This in turn will reflect on the stumpage prices that are being paid; they will fall off to a point where the corporations can buy up the timber rights at low stumpage. Then the timber companies will pull the cheap lumber off the market, raise the lumber prices back up and make tremendous profits. So beware out there. Whatever they are saying, don't believe it. Redwood is a very valuable commodity. There is only one place in the world where it grows and where it can be produced commercially and that's in the Pacific Northwest. China and Japan--the only other two countries that had redwood--have exhausted their supplies. The only redwood they have left is in government parks and reserves and so forth. If the landowners will just realize that if they log selectively, sell their timber to independent, local, community-based milling operations... For example, Preston Lumber Company has a mill in Cloverdale and one in Philo. They're independent. They are a company, not a corporation, they have been around the area for a very long time, before the corporations were. They are paying prices that by any standards far exceed what the corporations are offering for your timber. They specifically have expressed their wish to pay top dollar for any timber that we direct their way as a way of allowing us to do the job that's environmentally-sound, giving us the profit cushion that is needed to take a little extra time and do the job right and do replanting and follow-up management.

Judi Bari: It's encouraging that a local mill is not only willing to pay the going rate, but more than the going rate to support your efforts to do environmentally-sound logging which is admittedly going to be more time consuming. I think that's going to be the key to how we are going to have any kind of change here. The only way we are going to save this County is not to sell the timber to L-P, not to sell the timber to G.P.keep it in the community and keep it with local loggers and mills who are willing to do a decent job. A lot of the timberland owners just don't know what a "shelterwood removal" is. That's what was happening on Indian Creek. Do you want to talk about that a little bit. Mark? About the Blanche [drown cut where the owners didn't even know that "shelterwood removal" was a clearcut. They thought it was a select cut.

Mark Heimann: Yeah. It was really kind of funny. At the public meeting we had at the Boonville Fairgrounds on Indian Creek and the Blanche Brown cut... Some of the Brown heirs approached me after the meeting. In the little speech I gave I said that a "shelterwood removal cut" was a euphemism for a clearcut. They came up afterwards and asked me, "what do you mean?" And 1 explained a little to them what a shelterwood cut is like and described how it would look after they were done. I offered to show them some shelterwood cuts here around this area. They couldn't believe it. They thought they were doing a selection cut. They thought they were only going to take a few trees. They really didn't have any idea what happens on the ground and what these different terms meant and it was a learning process for them... and for us too.

Judi Bari: Let's take this call. Caller, you are on the air.

First Woman Caller: Hi, I just wanted to say that I have a small amount of timberland and two years ago I did a select cut with a local logging person who's close to where I am and they sold the timber to Preston in Cloverdale because I told them I wanted an independent mill. They did a wonderful job. They found me a forester who felt the way I did about my land and my trees. I went out and marked all the trees that I needed cut for what I was trying to do. And I would watch them fall some of the trees and drag them out. They dragged them all uphill. There would be a fern like four inches on one side... and this guy with this huge tractor and this huge log could not even touch the fem. I mean there are people out there who are willing to work that way and these guys actually prefer to work that way if they can do it. They were absolutely wonderful. I'm a member of Earth First! as well, and I do a lot of things to try and stop the corporation loggers. I'll get some loggers who will sit there and tell me that I don't know what I'm talking about. I watched them. I gave ten guys four weeks worth of work. So I don't need to be told...

Judi Bari: Did you have to pay more for that kind of job?

Caller: Oh, I'm sure I did.

Judi Bari: And I bet it was worth it too.

Caller: I mean, I got enough to pay them and have enough money left over to have the wood milled and to build a house with wood off of my land. None of the corporations around here would... I mean every stitch of wood in my house, EVERY STITCH, except the doors, came off my land. I had a local guy who lives in Elk mill it for me and I had the local guys log it for me. They were very good about listening to me and why I wanted a select-cut. And even though there were places with nice, big trees that the guys were kind of looking at. They were saying, "Well, how come you're not cutting any of those?" It was a place where there was a stream nearby and I didn't want to. The forester they found me was an independent forester who was just wonderful. So it's nice to hear that other people, besides the guys that I know, are willing to do it that way. And I wanted you to know that here's an environmentalist who logged her land.

Judi Bari: That busts that stereotype that Earth First!ers don't want to log a single tree. That's what they want them to think about us, but it's not true. I think Tony has something to add...

Tony Pardini: You said that you sold your timber to Preston?

Caller: That's the one in Cloverdale, right?

Tony Pardini: Right.

Caller: Yes. That's the place.

Tony Pardini: I have to give the thumbs up to Preston Lumber Company. I got a call from Gary Lewis at Preston. We are looking at a job right now... We wanted him to look at the timber. He told me to give him a price. I did. And he accepted each of my prices for each species of tree. He did that so that he could give the property owner a greater amount of money for her timber and pay the logger a little more so that he could afford to slow down and do a good job. That's where logger pride comes in. After a job is done and you look at it and you say, "Hey, this looks like a park." And 10 years from now these people can log this again and make the same amount of money and still have a good-looking piece of property. That's the way it should be done. It starts from the bottom, that's the timber company, in this case Preston Lumber Company. Then it goes right on down the line.

Judi Bari: We've got another caller. Hi, you're on the air.

Second Woman Caller: I have a question about portable sawmills. I'd like to know if you have a portable sawmill and you're working on an environmentally sound logging practices and you mill up your lumber with a portable mill... Is there any way you can get it graded for structural use?

Ernie Pardini: Yes. There are people who are licensed graders who twill, for a small fee, grade your lumber for you. One locally... He was doing it in the past, I assume he still is, if he's not busy with other things, is Jack June. He's a local RPF and he's also a licensed lumber grader... or was. That would be something you'd have to check into. They are around. If you can get a hold of myself or my brother we could probably steer you in the direction of one if Jack isn't doing it anymore.

 Judi Bari: You know the statements that people like you are making today sound pretty good and this is what we've been thinking all along, but it's quite a change actually for some of the people in this room. Tony, in particular was notorious for his anti-environmental and anti-Earth First! views. A little while ago down in Navarro some of you environmentalists might have been driving by and seen a stump with an owl on it. What did that say on it, Tony?

Tony Pardini: Yes. There was an owl perched on top and it said, "I like stumps." (Laughs)

Judi Bari: So that's Tony's house! I was wondering if you would tell us some of the stories you've told me about what you used to think of us and what you used to do to us.

Tony Pardini: Getting back to the stump... I had another one set up but my owl ran out of air. I had a pile of lumber with an owl perched on that that said "I can sleep anywhere." (Laughs) But... Some stories about me and Earth First!... One day a friend of mine pulled into my yard and he said, "Hey, there's one a them goddamn hippies sittin' in a tree down here.

Judi Bari: That was on Highway 128, National Tree Sit Week --1989.

Tony Pardini: I said, "That's just right." And I sent a friend of mine over to his house to get a high pressure water pump. I went in my backyard and got a couple of five-gallon buckets full of water and rotten abalone guts and I said, "Let's go give 'em a bath! If they can sit in a tree with this stinkin' stuff all over 'em, they can have the son of a gun." (Laughter...) That was my attitude because of the things that I had heard about Earth First!... the tree spiking and the equipment sabotage... I had a bad attitude. But things like that, tactics like that are history. They are history. If they are willing to give up their tactics that weren't acceptable, so am I. Through my brother I listened to Judi Bari and I was impressed. She made me see the light. Right now I wish I had had a tape recorder in my house the other night when I had a couple of my buddies who are loggers there. They said some things that were along the same lines that I'm saying right now. I think more and more are stepping forward and taking a stand with us. And I tell you what: In the future it's going to be us. It's going to be usnot you L-P. Not you big corporations that are tearing up our land and our trees. It's going so be us!

Ernie Pardini: Just to add a little something to what Tony said about the people that we're hearing favorable things from in the industry. There are a lot more like-minded loggers out there that are talking amongst themselves. They are talking with us. They are not yet quite comfortable with coming out and talking publicly, but that is going to come soon. We are going to see more and more of it. Something very encouraging happened to me today... I was up at the Fairgrounds near the old logging equipment exhibit with a gentleman who is doing a logging video. We were speaking with a member of a very well respected old logging family, an ex-logger-rancher-whatever-happened-to-be-available-as-work at the time. A real deep-rooted member of this community. He made a comment that I found a little bit surprising, to say the least. But he said that he had read one of my articles in the paper and, "You hit it right on the nose, young man." He said, "Why can't the rest of these people see what's happening?" He said, "When we used to log before they came, we logged every 30 years on a piece of property and you could go back 30 years later and there would be more there than there was when you started." He said, "We always did it that way after the original clearcuts happened here. We saw what happened after that. That's the way we did it ever since. It's a real shame the way they're doing it now." So this opinion is not coming just from the young members of the logging community. It's coming from retired older members of the logging community. It's coming from old family community members who aren't involved in logging. We're hearing it everywhere. The only exceptions being just a very few who just haven't seen yet or who are refusing to acknowledge it.

Judi Bari: Tony, you also wrote a letter in the Anderson Valley Advertiser. Have you gotten reactions? I know Ernie has been more out front than you so far. You're kind of newer to stepping out and saying these things. What kind of reaction have you had from other loggers and... both you and Ernie taking the stand you have, considering you're a family in this area... It's very courageous of you both. Can you say something about the reactions you've gotten Tony?

Tony Pardini: Yeah. The reactions I've gotten so far are all positive. Everybody, everybody that has approached me on these issues has said, "Hey. Great letter." Gary Lewis, timber buyer for Preston Lumber Company, pulled up to the store where I was the other day. He said, "Great Letter! You got it. That's where it's at now and that's the way we've got to do it." A lot of people turn their nose up at me, won't wave at me when I go by now, but these are people that are a little bit more stubborn. These are people that are just like I was three years ago with the abalone guts. But someday, someday, they are going to see it our way because they are going to log a clearcut and when they are done they are going to stand up there on that landing look at the god-awful mess and say, "Man, how are we going to have pride in this?" There is no pride in a clearcut. Logging a piece of property and making it look like a parkthat's where pride's at. We as loggers have got to get that pride back because in the last few years it's been lost somewhere. I think it's been lost right out there on the old Masonite Road, if you know what I'm talking about.

Judi Bari: One of Ernie's phrases that I like... He said that the corporations have... what did you say, Ernie? Sheared us of our... ?

Ernie Pardini: I said that they've made us into herds of corporate sheep, corralled by the pens of capitalism after first being sheared of our pride and self-esteem. Then butchered by the likes of Harry Merlo and so forth...

Judi Bari: We've been talking about forming a co-op among landowners that are interested in sustainable forestry, timber workers logging in a way they can be proud of, manufacturers and distributors getting together and taking the economy of this County from its absentee owners. We're talking about having a founding meeting and trying to set this up as a legal entity.